Top chef Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur fame dishes on India visit, culinary influences, and the food he loves
Mauro Colagreco is sharp, curious, and loves to experiment. He travels the world searching for new ideas and is never afraid to incorporate other cultural influences.
Known for its quality and inventive good food, Mirazur — in Menton on the French Riveira — is no stranger to culinary recognition. Number one on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, it also boasts no fewer than three Michelin stars. The man behind this culinary achievement is its Argentinian-Italian chef, Mauro Colagreco, whom Masters of Marriott, in association with Culinary Culture, India’s largest food platform, recently brought to Mumbai.
Dinners priced at Rs 30,000 per person, spread over two evenings, enabled gourmands to get a glimpse of the restaurant and savour Mauro’s signature dishes like Fish Lotus, Goat Cheese Ravioli, and smoked eel and caviar tartlet.
The highlight of the evening was a lamb dish cooked in a sauce made with local spices served with Indian breads. “I love the diversity of Indian food and the plethora of spices used in the cuisine to create flavours,” he said, in an interview with this writer. “This is only an Indian-inspired dish and I have a lot more to learn about Indian cuisine.”
It’s yet another indication that Mauro Colagreco is sharp, curious, and loves to experiment. He travels the world searching for new ideas and is never afraid to incorporate other cultural influences.
Diners may have been awe-struck by his signature dishes and cooking prowess, but Mauro himself reminisces about his first meal at St. Regis, comprising lamb biryani, raita, dal makhani, garlic naan, gulab jamun, and is still drooling at the thought of those flavours. “The tandoor in particular, fascinates me and the biryani with its complex and myriad flavours and textures was outstanding,” he shared.
Cooking was ingrained in his psyche from childhood, but Mauro was initially lost and dabbled in a few things before he found his calling. It was his sister who reminded him of the pleasure he used to get when he cooked with his grandmother as a child. “That memory helped me to rediscover my true passion — cooking,” Mauro said.
While making a life for himself in the homeland of fine cuisine, the gifted Argentinian chef began exploring his Italian heritage as well and opened his first restaurant, Mirazur, at the French-Italian border in a small town called Menton in 2006 at the age of 29.
When he came to France in 2001, he had attended culinary school in La Rochelle, and was fortunate to get his first internship with Bernard Loiseau (whose restaurant had 3 Michelin stars) in Burgundy. Loiseau had a great impact on him, and this training planted the seeds in Mauro’s mind for his own subtle innovations later.
Mauro acknowledges other influences too in shaping his culinary choices and style of cooking, although he has developed a distinct style of his own. Alain Passard’s fixation for vegetables and a whole new approach to French cooking inspired Mauro. (“A dish Alain Passard created using only onions, remains firmly entrenched in my memory,” he said. Passard’s vegetable garden led Mauro to grow his own vegetables later at Mirazur.) From Alain Ducasse, Mauro imbibed an eye for detail and perfectionism.
Chefs may have taught him cooking techniques, but he owes his passion for cooking to his Italian grandmother. In fact the bread rolls he serves at Mirazur, are her recipe.
Just months after he started Mirazur, accolades poured in for his fresh cuisine that gleans inspiration from the sea, the restaurant’s gardens and Menton’s famous citrus. He loves fresh produce. His menus are dictated by what is available and at times he has served a dish in Mirazur only for a day when the vegetable is at its peak, in terms of flavours.
“It is my passion for cooking that keeps me going. When I started cooking in Argentina, I never knew what Michelin stars and the World’s Best 50 Restaurant lists were,” Mauro said. He loves to cook and feed his guests. “My food is from my heart [sic],” he quipped. While he is thrilled at all the honours he receives, he realises “fame is fragile” and prefers to concentrate on his cooking, work hard and better it each day.
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